Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Excerpt’s from “Mother Teresa's Secret Fire”
What Forged Her Soul Was an Intimate Encounter With Divine Thirst
by Father Joseph Langford, MC
(Together with Mother Teresa, Father Langford is a co-founder of the priestly branch of the Missionaries of Charity.)
The Train to Darjeeling: Another Reading
On the morning of Sept. 10, Sister Teresa Bojaxhiu left Calcutta’s Howrah Station, bound for Siliguri, in the northern plains of West Bengal. She would disembark in Siliguri and board what was affectionately called the "toy train," so nicknamed for its tiny dimensions, and from there continue on the last leg of her journey. . . .
As the train ascended into the clean, cool mountain air, Sister Teresa would have looked out her window onto lush thickening forests. Trains were slow in that day, not because the engines were weak, but because the track was unreliable. A trip of several hours could turn into days, as late-summer heat could buckle rails and add hours to the journey. But, when moving, a passenger’s mind could ride the rhythm of the train’s progress and easily move into prayer.
Somewhere on this ordinary journey, in the heat, in the gathering shadows, in the noisy, crowded car, something extraordinary happened. At some unknown point along the way, there in the depths of Mother Teresa’s soul, the heavens opened.
For decades, all she would tell her Sisters of that life-changing moment was that she had received a “call within a call,” a divine mandate to leave the convent and to go out to serve the poor in the slums. But something incomparably greater and more momentous had transpired as well. We now know, thanks to early hints in her letters and conversations, and her own later admissions, that she had been graced with an overwhelming experience of God -- an experience of such power and depth, of such intense “light and love,” as she would later describe it, that by the time her train pulled into the station at Darjeeling, she was no longer the same. Though no one knew it at the time, Sister Teresa had just become Mother Teresa.
For the still young nun, barely 36 years old, another journey was beginning; an inner journey with her God that would turn every aspect of her life upside down. The grace of the train would not only transform her relationship to God, but to everyone and everything around her. Within eight short days, the grace of this moment would carry her and her newfound inner fire back down the same mountainside, and into a new life. From the heights of the Himalayas she would bring a profoundly new sense of her God back into the sweltering, pestilent slums of Calcutta -- and onto a world stage, bearing in her heart a light and love beyond her, and our, imagining.
From then on, Mother Teresa would simply refer to September 10th as “Inspiration Day,” an experience she considered so intimate and ineffable that she resisted speaking of it, save in the most general terms. Her silence would prevail until the last few years of her life, when she at last was moved to lift the veil covering this sacred moment.
Putting It All Together
As I worked on our constitutions in the Bronx, I began to ask myself if there might be a connection between Mother Teresa's experience on the train and Jesus’ words, “I thirst.” Could they both be part of the same grace; could it be that Mother Teresa’s encounter on the train was, at its core, an encounter with Jesus’ thirst? If that were the case, the words on the wall would simply be her way of telling us, without training the spotlight on herself, yet in a way we would not forget, the essence of what had happened that grace-filled day on the train.
As I prayed and thought over it in those months, I became more persuaded that the grace of the train had been, at least in part, Mother Teresa’s own overpowering experience of Jesus’ thirst. The only thing left to complete my quest was to seek her confirmation.
On her next visit to New York, in early 1984, I finally had both reason and opportunity to ask her about the experience of the train. A few days into her visit, when I was alone with her in the front garden outside our house in the Bronx, I told her of what had been my long search to better understand her “inspiration,” and my desire to describe it accurately in our community’s constitutions. I explained to her that, for me, the only thing that made sense of her placing “I thirst” in her chapels, was that it grew out of her own experience of the thirst of Jesus -- and most importantly, that her encounter with the divine thirst had been the heart and essence of September 10th. . . .
I waited in silence for an answer. She lowered her head for a moment, then looked up and said, “Yes, it is true.” Then after a pause, she added, “And one day you must tell the others . . .”
Here, finally, was the core of Mother Teresa’s secret. In the end, it had not been some dry command to “work for the poor” that had made Mother Teresa who she was. What had forged Mother Teresa’s soul and fueled her work had been an intimate encounter with the divine thirst – for her, for the poor, and for us all. . . .
In the most indirect and humble of ways, not unlike the Virgin Mary, Mother Teresa had wished to exalt the goodness of the God she had met on the train, and the divine message that, after changing her life, held the power to change our own. She had always known, as I later realized, that her message was meant for us all – for the neediest and furthest away first of all. And the message of Jesus’ thirst, of his longing to love us, silently conveyed in her works of love as much as by her few and gentle words, was bearing fruit all around her and all around the world. Already, in the time I had known her, I had seen with my own eyes how her unspoken message could touch, and heal, and change lives.
Her Message Launched
Mother Teresa’s understanding of the thirst of God was entirely simple, yet deep, powerful and engaging. She learned that God not only accepts us with all our misery, but that he longs for us, “thirsts” for us, with all the intensity of his divine heart, no matter who we are or what we have done.
But how can God “thirst” for us if there is no lack in God? While thirst can imply lack, it also has another sense. In Mother Teresa’s lexicon, thirst signifies deep, intense desire. Rather than indicating lack, the symbol of divine thirst points to the mystery of God’s freely chosen longing for man. Simply put, though nothing in God needs us, everything in God wants us -- deeply and intensely, as he shows throughout Scripture.
Mother Teresa’s insights reveal something important, even essential, in the depths of God’s being. Mother Teresa insists that the thirst of Christ reveals something not only about Jesus, but about God himself. Jesus’ thirst points us toward a great mystery in the very bosom of the Godhead -- what Mother Teresa describes as “the depths of God's infinite longing to love and be loved.” As ardent a statement as this is, her insights are confirmed by no less a source than the Fathers of the Church. The great St. Augustine would write that “God thirsts to be thirsted for by man.” In our own day, Benedict XVI would affirm that “the thirst of Christ is a gateway into the mystery of God.”
The mystery of God’s thirst for us was the one great light Mother Teresa held high in the night, hers and ours. . . .
Sharing the Darkness of the Poor
As difficult and painful as her dark night became, Mother Teresa never allowed herself to become “lost” in her darkness. She never rebelled against it, nor against the God who laid it on her shoulders, nor against the poor of Calcutta with whom and for whom she bore it. On the contrary, she gradually came to understand its deeper meaning, and even to willingly embrace it for the sake of her God -- who had borne that same agony for her sake, in Gethsemane.
Even while tending to the physical and material needs of the poor, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, Mother Teresa’s primary focus was their “salvation and sanctification,” their inner advancement toward divine union, as their highest dignity and long-term vocation. She was not sent simply to work for material betterment, a point even her admirers often miss. Calcutta’s poorest, living and dying on the streets, enjoyed neither sufficient material goods, nor the goodness of their fellow man. Since they were left with nothing and no one to mirror to them the face of God, Mother Teresa was sent to show them in his name, in concrete works of love, how beloved of God they were. For love’s sake, she herself would bear a portion of their interior pain. She would give of herself, in this life and the next, to “light the light of those in darkness on earth.” The more the truth of her victorious faith is known, the more she will be an inspiration to those who are learning to find their peace, to make their contribution, and to cling to their God, as she did, in the night. . . .
Lessons in the Night
Darkness need not be the opposite, the enemy of light. When seeded with God's grace, darkness becomes its catalyst. Night becomes womb to day. It is the power of love, of God's own nature as love, that works this alchemy. When embraced for others, when transformed by love, darkness indeed becomes light. . . .
Turning the Darkness to Light
We are each called and equipped by God to not only survive our personal Calcutta, but to serve there -- to contribute to those around us whose individual Calcutta intersects our own, just as Mother Teresa did, if on a different scale. If she could face the worst of human suffering in such immense proportions, and do so despite bearing her own pain -- then there must be a way that we can do the same in the lesser Calcutta that is ours. We must never forget, distracted by the demi-problems of our routine existence, just how important our one life is in the plan of God, and the great amount of good we can yet contribute.
How important can our one small, unspectacular life be? Consider this: the good that each of us can accomplish, even with limited resources and restricted reach, not even a Mother Teresa could achieve. The family, friends and coworkers whom we alone can touch, with our unique and unrepeatable mix of gifts and qualities, not even Mother Teresa could reach. No one else on the planet, and no one else in history possesses the same network of acquaintances and the same combination of talents and gifts as each of us do.
There is no need, then, to travel to far-off lands to contribute to Mother Teresa’s mission, or to follow her example. Wherever we are, with whatever talents and relationships God has entrusted us, we are each called not to do what a Mother Teresa did, but to do as she did -- to love as she loved in the Calcutta of our own life.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Blessed Mother Teresa
April 8, 1991
God is Love. Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life (Jn 3:16). Like us, in all things except sin — in Jesus, with Jesus and through Jesus we go to the Father..
A missionary must be a missionary of Love. A missionary is one who is sent. God sent his Son. Today God sends us. Each one of us is sent by God and his Church. Sent for what? Sent to be his love among men. Sent to bring his love and compassion among men. We have to carry our Lord to places he has not walked before. In Melbourne, once — the sisters picked up a man from the street. He was an alcoholic with no name, no work, nothing, a real street case. After a week, he came up to the sister and said: "Now I am all right and I am going home. I will never drink again. I have realized God loves me". Then he went back to his home, to his wife, his children and to his work. After a month he returned with his first salary saying: "Use this to show God's love to others like me".
Once a man came to Nirmol Hridoy, Home for the Dying Destitutes, Calcutta. He just walked in — right into the ward. I was there. After a little while he came back and said to me: "I came here with so much hate in my heart, hate for God and hate for man. I came here empty, faithless, embittered and I saw a sister inside, giving her whole-hearted attention to that patient there. I realize that God still loves. Now I go out a different man. I believe there is a God and he loves us still".
In Ethiopia, the Apostolic Delegate told us during the homily at Mass: "I thank you, in the name of the Holy Father because by your presence you are making the Church fully present here". We make the Church present by proclaiming the Good News. What is the Good News? The Good News is that God still loves the world through each one of us. You are God's Good News; you are God's love in action. Through you God is still loving the world. Each time people come into contact with us, they must become different and better people because of having met us. We must radiate God's love. By our living and working together as God's family, we proclaim that unity in the Church, as well as by working with all people, serving all people, of any religion, colour, caste or race.The Church all over the world wishes to be the Church of the poor...; she wishes to draw out all the truth contained in the beatitudes of Christ, and especially in the first one: "Blessed are the poor in spirit".... She wishes to teach this truth and she wishes to put it into practice, just as Jesus came to do and to teach". (Redemptoris Missio)The head of the social workers in Calcutta told me: "Mother, you and we are doing the same social work but there is one difference. We are doing it for something and you are doing it for someone".
That someone is Jesus. "Who are you?" the people asked Jesus. John's disciples also came to ask Jesus, "Are you the Messiah or shall we wait for another?" And Jesus answered them saying: Go and tell John: the blind see, the lame walk, the dumb speak, the lepers are cleansed, the dead rise, and the Gospel is preached to the poor. Jesus did not answer them directly. He lets the good news and people meet God. They see God's love alive.
To the apostles, Jesus asked this question: "And you — who do you say that I am?" Each one of us must answer this same question personally.
Jesus identified himself with the poor from the moment he left his Father's side to the moment he returned, especially during his passion and death on the cross. He became the poorest of the poor — the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the stranger, the prisoner. Jesus revealed the extent of true love on the cross. Love to be true has to hurt. The poor are Jesus' Calvary today. "Suffering is present in the world in order to release love . . . in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a civilization of love" (Salvifici Doloris).When we look at the cross, we know how much Jesus loved us then.On the night before he died — Jesus left us himself in the Eucharist, under the appearance of bread and wine. So is he also present in the distressing disguise of the poor, though in quite a different way.
When we look at the tabernacle, we know how much Jesus loves us now. (Redemptoris Missio)
And he gave us a new commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you".
And to make it easy for us to love, he said: "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me"; for I was hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, unwanted, untouchable — and you did it to me. I call this the Gospel on five fingers — five words: You did it to me. Jesus cannot tell a lie. In your five fingers you have your love for Jesus. And St. John tells us that "if anyone says, I love God, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. One who has no love for the brother he has seen — cannot love the God he has not seen". Look at your fingers often and remind yourself of this love.
At each Holy Communion, Jesus satisfies my hunger for him and then he makes himself the hungry one to satisfy his hunger for my love — for souls.
The Eucharist and the poor we must never separate. The poor and the Eucharist are one. There is not one without the other. If we really believe that he, Jesus, is in the appearance of bread and he, Jesus, is in the hungry, the naked, the sick the lonely, unloved, the homeless, the helpless, the hopeless, then our lives will be more and more woven with this deep faith in Jesus, the Bread of Life to be eaten with and for the poor.
Father Gabric, S.J., told me this story: A Mohammedan Mulvi was standing with him and watching a sister bandaging the wound of a leper with so much love. She didn't say anything but she did something. The Mulvi turned to father and said: "All these years I believed that Jesus was a prophet, but today I know he is God because he has given so much love into the hands of this sister". That sister even today, does not know that by her action she brought Jesus into the life of that man. Today Jesus walks through the world in and through you and me, "going about doing good".
How beautiful is our vocation as missionaries. How great is our calling. How fortunate people would think themselves if they were given a chance to give personal service to the king of this world. And here we are — we can touch, love and serve Christ, the King of kings — all the days of our life. A young aspirant, after spending three hours cleaning a man from the street, came back with a radiant smile and said: "Mother, I have been touching the Body of Christ for three hours".The poor deserve preferential attention, whatever their moral or personal situation. They have been made in the image and likeness of God to be his children, but this image has been obscured and even violated. For this reason, God has become their defender and loves them. It follows that the poor are those to whom the mission is first addressed, and their evangelization is par excellence the sign and proof of the mission of Jesus. (Redemptoris Missio)Every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and Christ, by his Incarnation, is united with each human person. In the beginning when I first started the work, some people passed remarks that the Church is not made of rubbish. That meant the poor, the sick, the dying, the crippled, the homeless, etc. Now everyone seems to have turned towards what was considered rubbish. Yes, the poor are worthy of respect and human dignity. Human beings cannot become conscious of their own dignity unless they have experienced love. It reminds me of the man who died in Nirmol Hridoy: "I have lived like an animal in the street, but I will die like an angel, loved and cared for".
Someone wanted to give some money, but he was told: "Why give it to Mother Teresa, who will use it for people who are just dying or for lepers who are useless to society. Instead, invest it in a course or seminar where it can be used to bring uplift, youth education, or to obtain talks and support families".
There was talk that Mother Teresa is spoiling the people by giving them things free. Once at a seminar, in the name of the whole group, one nun got up and said to me, "Mother Teresa, you are spoiling the poor people by giving them things free. They are losing their human dignity. You should take at least 10 naye paise for what you give them; then they will feel their human dignity more". When everyone was quiet I said calmly: "No one spoils as much as God himself does. See the wonderful gifts he has given us freely. All of you here wear no spectacles, yet you all can see. Say, if God were to take money for your sight, what would happen? We are spending so much money in our Shishu Bhavan to buy oxygen for saving life, yet continually we are breathing and living on oxygen and we do not pay anything for it. What would happen if God were to say, 'You work four hours and you will get sunshine for two hours', how many of us would then survive?". Then I also told them: "There are many congregations who spoil the rich, then it is good to have one congregation in the name of the poor, to spoil the poor". There was profound silence, nobody said a word after that.
The purpose of our missionary activity is to bring the poor to Jesus and to bring Jesus to the poor.In fidelity to the spirit of the beatitudes, the Church is called to be on the side of those who are poor and oppressed in any way. I therefore exhort the disciples of Christ and all Christian communities — from families to dioceses from parishes to religious institutes — to carry out a sincere review of their lives regarding their solidarity with the poor. (Redemptoris Missio)Mary was the first Missionary of Charity. After welcoming Jesus into her heart and into her womb, she rose and went in haste to sanctify John and to do the humble work of a servant for her cousin Elizabeth. Jesus in her came in contact with John and he leapt for joy in his mother's womb. Jesus in the Eucharist necessarily leads us to Jesus in the poor. We need to be pure of heart to see Jesus in the person of the poor, for a pure heart can see God. This purity means that our heart "has to be emptied of all self-seeking, of all sin. Once we take our eyes away from ourselves, from our interests, from our own rights, privileges, ambitions — then they will become clear to see Jesus around us. Impurity is present whenever we are proud or bitter, harbouring uncharitable thoughts, words or deeds, unforgiving, jealous or blocked by earthly riches. The people at the time of Jesus rejected him because his poverty threatened their riches. Jesus was sent by his Father to the poor and, to be able to understand the poor, Jesus had to know and experience that poverty in his own body and soul. We too must experience poverty if we want to be true carriers of God's love. To be able to proclaim the Good News to the poor we must know what poverty is.
Prayer gives us a clean heart and a clean heart can see God. So let us pray: "Mary, our Mother — give us your heart so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate, so full of love and humility that we may be able to receive Jesus in the Bread of Life, love him as you loved him and serve him in the distressing disguise of the poor".
But while Mary was sinless and pure from the moment of her conception, we are stained by sin and God, in his sacrament of mercy, has given us confession. We go to confession as sinners with sin and we return as sinners without sin. Mary could stand near the cross on Calvary and hear his cry: "I thirst" because she knew Jesus in his littleness and poverty in the manger of Bethlehem and in his hiddenness at Nazareth for 30 years, known only as "the son of the carpenter, Joseph", she was not surprised at the passion but could own him as her son at the moment when he needed her most.At the same time, I express gratitude to the missionaries who, by their loving presence and humble service to people, are working for the integral development of individuals and of society through schools, health-care centres, leprosaria homes for the handicapped and the elderly, projects for the promotion of women, and other similar apostolates. (Redemptoris Missio)Let us not make a mistake — that the hunger is only for a piece of bread. The hunger of today is much greater: for love — to be wanted, to be loved, to be cared for, to be somebody.
Feeding the hungry — not only for food but also for the Word of God.
Giving drink to the thirsty — not only for water, but for peace, truth and justice.
Giving shelter to the homeless — not only a shelter made of bricks but a heart that understands, that covers, that loves.
Nursing the sick and the dying — not only of body but also of mind and spirit.
I do not agree with the big way of doing things. To us, what matters is an individual. To get to love the person, we must come in close contact with him. If we wait kill we get the numbers, then we will be lost in the numbers, and we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person. I believe in a person-to-person relationship. Every person is Christ for me, and since there is only one Jesus, there is only one person in the world for me at that moment. Humility always radiates the greatness and glory of God. Let us not be afraid to be humble, small, helpless to prove our love for God. The cup of water you give to the sick, the way you lift a dying man, the way you feed a baby, the way in which you teach an ignorant child, the way you give medicine to a leper, the joy with which you smile at your own at home -- all this is God's love in the world today. I want this to be imprinted in your minds: God skill loves the world through you and through me today. We must not be afraid to radiate God's love everywhere. Once someone asked me: "Why do you go abroad? Don't you have enough poor in India?" I answered: "I think Jesus told us to go and preach to all the nations. That is why we go all over the world to preach God's love and compassion by our humble deeds of love.
I encourage the volunteers from nongovernmental organizations who in ever increasing numbers are devoting themselves to works of charity and human promotion.
As we find Jesus in the Eucharist and in his poor, we are also called to help others to find him there. Our works of love have become a means of unity. If you come to Calcutta, you will see it so clearly. Many volunteers from different nations — Japanese, Indians, Australians, Europeans, Americans, — come everyday to the motherhouse for a little talk, holy Mass and Holy Hour. Where they stay, they also pray together. It is so wonderful to see them working together at our different homes for the poor. Our home for the dying has become a centre where they receive so much. There many have touched and experienced God. It has even brought Hindus close to God and close to Christ. One day, a Gujrati family came to Green Park where we have crippled people, undernourished children and people suffering from tuberculosis. The whole family came with cooked food and I asked the sisters to serve it. To my surprise they said: "Mother, we want to serve it by ourselves". Some of them were even old. For them, it was a great thing — for they believe they become unclean.It is in fact these "works of charity" that reveal the soul of all missionary activity: love which has been and remains the driving force of mission, and is also "the sole criterion for judging what is to be done or not done, changed or not changed. It is the principle which must direct every action, and the end to which that action must be directed. When we act with a view to charity, or are inspired by charity, nothing is unseemly and everything is good". (Redemptoris Missio)We pray daily after receiving Jesus in holy Communion, the prayer "Radiating Christ". In our chapels, we put a transparent veil on the tabernacle to remind us that we too must become so transparent that people see only Jesus through us and we will see Jesus in them. We must allow Jesus to live in us, to grow in us, to shine through us.
Charity begins today. Today somebody is suffering, today somebody is in the street, today somebody is hungry. Our work is for today, yesterday has gone, tomorrow has not yet come — today, we have only today to make Jesus known, loved, served, fed, clothed, sheltered, etc. Today — do not to wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow might not come. Tomorrow we will not have them if we do not feed them today.
Love will also make us fearless in doing the things he did and we will courageously go through danger and death with him and for him.
—We will be ready to die daily to self and willing to pay the price he paid for souls out of love.
—We will be ready to go to any part of the world at any time to spread his love.
—We will be happy to undertake any labour and toil, glad to make any sacrifice demanded by missionary life.How much we have to thank God for giving us Jesus to espouse us in tenderness and love by giving us his life, his heart and himself in the poor. (Redemptoris Missio)Let us pray that we be pure and humble like Mary so that we can become holy like Jesus.
All for Jesus through Mary.
God bless you.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Address to the United Nations
October 26, 1985
We have gathered together to thank God for the 40 years of the beautiful work that the United Nations have put in for the good of the people, and as we begin the year of peace, let us say the prayer, you have all got one, we say the prayer together for peace. For works of love are works of peace. We say it together so that we may obtain peace and God can give us peace, by uniting us together.
Make us worthy Lord to serve our fellow men throughout the world,
who live and die in poverty and hunger.
Give them through our hands, this day, their daily bread
and by our understanding love give peace and joy.
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace.
That where there is hatred I may bring love,
That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness,
That where there is discord, I may bring harmony,
That where there is error I may bring truth,
That where there is doubt I may bring faith,
That where there is despair I may bring hope,
That where there are shadows I may bring light,
That where there is sadness I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort that to be comforted,
To understand than to be understood,
To love than to be loved.
For it is by forgetting self that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven,
it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.
We have asked our Lord to make us channels of peace, of joy, of love, of unity, and this is why Jesus came: to prove that love. God loved the world so much that he gave Jesus his son to come among us, to give us that good news, that God loves us. And that he wants us to love one another as he loves each one of us. That he has created us for that one reason: to love and to be loved. No other reason. We are not just a number in the world. We are children of God.
Last time I was in China they asked me “what is a communist to you?” I said “a child of God, my brother my sister.” And exactly that is what you and I are meant to be: brother, sister. Because the same loving hand of God has created you, created me, created man of the street, created that leper, that hungry man, that rich man, for that same purpose: to love and to be loved. And this is what you and I have come together today to find the means of peace.
How does peace come? Through works of love. Where does it begin? At home. How does it begin? By praying together. For family that prays together stays together. And if you stay together, you will love one another as God loves each one of you. For Prayer gives a clean heart and a clean heart can see God. And if you see God in each other, if we have the joy of seeing God in each other, we will love one another. That’s why no color, no religion, no nationality should come between us. For we are all the same children of the same loving hand of God, created for greater things: to love and to be loved. Only we must experience that joy of loving.
I never forget, some time back, two young people came to our house and they gave me lots of money. And I asked them “where did you get so much money?” And they said “two days ago we got married. Before marriage, we decided we will not buy wedding clothes. We will not have wedding feast. We will give you that money.” And I know that in our country, in a Hindu family, what that means, not to have wedding clothes, not to have a wedding feast. So again I asked, “but why? Why did you do like that?” And they said “we loved each other so much that we wanted to share the joy of loving with the people you serve.” How do we experience the joy of loving? How do we experience that? By giving until it hurts.
When I was going to Ethiopia, little children came to me. They heard I was going there. And they came. They had come to know from the sisters how much the children are suffering in Ethiopia. And they came and each one gave something, very, very small money. And some, whatever they had, they gave. And a little boy came to me and said “I have nothing, I have no money, I have nothing. But I have this piece of chocolate. And you give that, take that with you and you give it to the children in Ethiopia.” That little child loved with great love, because I think that was the first time that he had a piece of chocolate in his hand. And he gave it. He gave it with joy to be able to share, to remove a little the suffering of someone in far Ethiopia. This is the joy of loving: to give until it hurts. It hurt Jesus to love us, for he died on the cross, to teach us how to love. And this is the way we too must love: until it hurts.
We have many beautiful people; you have seen in the pictures, our poor people, our great people. I have been with them for so many years and I have never yet heard a complaint. Some days back, I picked up a man from the streets, eaten up alive with worms. I took him to our home. And what did this man say? “I lived like an animal in the streets, but I will die like an angel. Loved, and cared.” It took us three hours to clean him, to remove every bit of those worms that were eating him alive. And not a word from him. And just before, while we were still praying with him, praying for him, he looked up at sister and said “Sister, I am going home to God.” And he died. There was such a wonderful, beautiful smile on his face. He went home to God. I’ve never seen a smile like that. And yet there was this man, eaten alive, no complaint, no cursing, and just “I am going home to God.” And what a beautiful way of going home to God. With a clean heart, with a pure heart, filled with joy. Filled with that tenderness and love that he received from the sisters who looked after him.
Yes, this is what you and I, today, if we really stand for why we have come here today, to begin that year of peace, we must begin at home, we must begin in our own family. Works of love begin at home and works of love are works of peace. We all want peace, and yet, and yet we are frightened of nuclear wars, we are frightened of this new disease. But we are not afraid to kill an innocent child, that little unborn child, who has been created for that same purpose: to love God and to love you and me.
This is what is such a contradiction, and today I feel that abortion has become the greatest destroyer of peace. We are afraid of the nuclear wars because it is touching us, but we are not afraid, the mother is not afraid to commit that terrible murder. Even when God Himself speaks of that, He says “even if mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you on the palm of my hand, you are precious to me, I love you.” These are God’s own words to you, to me, to that little unborn child. And this is why if we really want peace, if we are sincere in our hearts that we really want peace, today, let us make that strong resolution that in our countries, in our cities, we will not allow a single child to feel unwanted, to feel unloved, to throw away a society. And let us help each other to strengthen that. That in our countries that terrible law of killing the innocents, of destroying life, destroying the presence of God, be removed from our country, from our nation, from our people, from our families.
And so that today, when we are praying, let us bring again and again prayer in our life. For prayer will give us strength. Prayer is something that will help us to see God in each other, to help us to love one another as He loves each one of us. This is something that you and I must bring to the world. The whole world is looking up at you. You have gathered here, from all the nations to find the ways and means of peace. For sure, works of love are works of peace, and they begin in our family. Much suffering, much destruction has come from the home, from the family. By destroying the unborn child, we are destroying the presence of God. We have destroyed love. We have destroyed the most sacred thing that a human being can have: the joy of loving and joy of being loved.
And so today, when we have gathered here together, let us carry in our hearts one strong resolution: I will love. I will be a carrier of God’s love. For that is what Jesus came to teach us: How to love one another. And to bring Him to love at home, in our own family, in our own... to those that are unwanted. Maybe in our own family we have the lowly.
We all speak of the terrible hunger. What I have seen in Ethiopia, what I have seen in other places, especially these days in terrible places like Ethiopia, but the people in hundreds and thousands are facing death just for a piece of bread, for a glass of water. People have died in my own hands. And yet we forget, why they and not we? Let us love again, so let us share, let us pray that this terrible suffering be removed from our people. Let us share with them the joy of loving, and where does love begin? Again I say in our family, in our home. Let us bring love, peace and joy through prayer. Let us bring prayer, pray together, for prayer will give you a clean heart. I will pray for you that you may grow in this love of God, by loving one another as He loves each one of you, and especially that through this love, you become holy. Holiness is not a luxury of the few. It’s a simple duty for each one of us. For holiness brings love, and love brings peace, and peace brings us together.
And let us not be afraid for God is with us if we allow Him, if we give Him the joy of a pure heart. Let us pray, let us pray for each other. And you pray for us also, that we may continue God’s work with great love.
You have seen those young sisters, consecrating their lives totally to the service of the poorest of the poor. These young sisters take care of 158,000 lepers, in the Middle East, in Africa and India, and so much joy, new life has come into their lives. Why? Because there is somebody who loves them, somebody who wants them, somebody who will give them tender love and care. I was asked the other day, “What are you going to do in this place? We have everything. The government gives us everything. What will you do here?” I only said “I will give tender love and care.” No money can give that. So you and I, let us begin with that tender love and care in our own home. For this is what we have been created for. This is what Jesus came to teach us, to love one another as He loves each one of us. We have many poor people around the world, but I find that the poverty of loneliness, the poverty of being unwanted unloved, uncared, just left, a throwaway of society, is a very difficult and very, very burdensome poverty, very difficult to remove.
I have picked up from the streets hungry people, and by giving them to eat, by giving them a bed to sleep, I have removed the suffering, but for the lonely, the shut-ins, the unwanted, it’s not so easy. And so there you and I must come forward, and share the joy of loving, but we cannot give what we don’t have. That’s why we need to pray. And prayer will give us a clean heart, and a clean heart will allow us to see God in each other. And if we see God in each other, we will be able to live in peace and if we live in peace, we will be able to share the joy of loving with each other and God will be with us.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
a film by Ann and Jeanette Petrie
"The dramatic story of Mother Teresa's last day, her sudden death and her moving state funeral which was attended by the poor, the powerful and the rich from around the world. At the heart of this film and, for the first time, we see and hear Mother Teresa reveal her simple but profound spirituality that, put into action, transcended religious, political and cultural boundaries and enabled her to open 500 homes for the poor in over 124 countries. The film includes intimate and never-before-seen footage of Mother Teresa's private burial. But it is Mother's words, finally, that reveal why she has captivated the hearts and admiration of the world."
R. I will rise and go to my father (Lk 15:18).In these days, when we are tempted to rage and hateful retaliation against our enemies, it is right and appropriate that we should pray that God give us instead a clean heart and steadfast spirit.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. I will rise and go to my father.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. I will rise and go to my father.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. I will rise and go to my father.
It is not exactly a movie, but it is available on DVD, and this rendition of Gregorio Allegri's Miserere by the Tallis Scholars, filmed at the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore, Rome, on the occasion of Allegri's 400th birthday, is quite good (unfortunately, the clip ends up "clipping" off the last part of the piece).
Saturday, September 11, 2010
I'm telling you, ain't nothing could have ever got me to dance that close to the edge that high up.
There have been a few movies made about these heroes --
The Flight That Fought Back
See also Reflections on 9/11 and
Why I Believe, or, How I Know that God Exists
Thursday, September 9, 2010
What questions, comments, criticisms, do you have of the film?
What are your thoughts on the film "Mother Teresa" overall? What do you think of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta herself?
About the Movie –
In interviews, she has said that she had wanted to do this film for a long time, and she was concerned with capturing the spirit and mannerisms of Mother Teresa.
The movie was originally a mini-series on Italian television, running about another 60 minutes, which were edited out for the American DVD release.
Mother Teresa, following St. Therese, said that it wasn’t necessary to do “great” things, only to do small things with great love.
Mother Teresa often said that the greatest poverty is marginalization, to be unwanted. And, as Pope Benedict wrote in Caritas in Veritate 53, there is a crucial need for true communion in human development. There are many unwanted and unloved even here in this "land of plenty." We must learn to see in truth – (1) to actually be able to see the unwanted and unloved, to realize that they exist and might even be right next to us, and (2) to see Jesus in them. Maybe not as widespread as Calcutta, but we do have material poor here, and we need to learn to see them too.
Mother Teresa said it was up to God to convert people, she merely needed to bring Jesus to them and them to Jesus.
Mother Teresa saw her service to the poorest of the poor as an individual calling, a personal calling. We are each of us called, to personally give love ourselves, not to shift that responsibility off to someone or something else. Mother Teresa preferred the simple, the personal over the impersonal organization, which is consistent with the Church's teaching on subsidiarity. At the same time, Mother Teresa did not advocate working in isolation, but instead utilized and relied upon the assistance of others, that is, the principal of solidarity. (Caritas in Veritate 71) But she understood that it is not enough to have someone else do it. She was of the mind that if the individual person did not do it, did not personally give that drink to a thirsty Jesus, and did not do it today, that the poor would not be there tomorrow.
Love and Truth are the two pillars upon which the entirety of the faith can be understood. We are a faith that seeks understanding, both for ourselves and to better explain it to non-believers, and Love and Truth really are the answer to every question –
Why the Cross? Love and Truth
Why or How the Trinity? Love and Truth
Why the Immaculate Conception? Love and Truth
And when it comes to explaining Church moral teachings –
Why the teaching on contraception? Love and Truth
Why the Ten Commandments? Love and Truth
It is not surprising that Love and Truth should be the answer to every question because God is Love and God is Truth. (CCC 214-221)
If that is the truth of God, what is the truth of man?
The truth of man is that he is made male and female. And what does this truth of the human person tell us, as further revealed in scripture? Why do we exist, why are we here, what is the meaning of life?
We are social beings, made for relationship. The meaning and purpose of life is to love and be loved in truth. (CCC 355-84) Not merely as a matter of gratuitous charity, but as a matter of truth and justice, recognizing others as being children of God.
We are also called to “be perfect.” God is perfect complete Love and Truth. And so we are called to love as God loves, as Jesus loves us.
What is this Love of God? Not only philia, the brotherly, fraternal, friendship kind of love, but –
- Agape – the subordinate, sacrificial, total gift of self, unmerited and unconditional (See, Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est)
- Purified Eros – love naturally seeks an “other,” this is the thirsting kind of love, a joyous, passionate, ascending, intimate kind of love, longing to be with the other (Id.)
- “Spousal” type of love – examples are husband and wife, God and Israel, Jesus and the Church; this is a love that is both (a) unifying, communion, and (b) fruitful, creative. Love bears fruit. There is a spousal meaning in the human body, so we are all called to this type of love, a loving communion of persons, one in the Lord. (See, Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, Letter to Families, Wednesday Audiences on the Theology of the Body)
This was the calling of Mother Teresa, to love. She was and is a model of Love and Truth. Born Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents, upon entering the Sisters of Loreto, she took the name Teresa after St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She was sent to India, where she taught for many years. But she was called to something else.
On September 10, 1946, while on a trip to a retreat, she received a “calling within a calling.” The Lord called her to serve the poorest of the poor.
Mother Teresa often said that the worst kind of poverty is to be unloved and unwanted. (cf. Caritas in Veritate 53) Often that includes the material poor, who are marginalized and ignored, but it also includes the dying, the disabled, and even people of material means.
This vocation of loving the unloved included, in a special way, Truth -- being able to truly see, to see as God sees, to see the face of Jesus in others. In loving others, she loved Him, her spouse. (Homily of Pope John Paul II, Beatification Mass for Mother Teresa)
And in bringing the love of Jesus to the poor, she brought hope to those who had none and, for not a few, this led to faith, to them knowing Jesus in the heart.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
by Catholic News Service
Told with visual eloquence, this reverent film movingly dramatizes the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (Olivia Hussey), from her years as a young nun teaching at a girls' convent school in India; to serving the suffering in the slums of Calcutta; to founding the Missionaries of Charity; to becoming an ambassador of hope and compassion, and concluding shortly before her death in 1997. Filmed on location in Sri Lanka and Italy, the movie chronicles her congregation's growth to an international charitable organization. . . . Director Fabrizio Costa eschews gauzy hagiography, lovingly painting this extraordinary woman in flesh-and-blood hues, resulting in a deeply human portrait of a modern-day -- if not yet officially recognized -- saint. . . .
Read the entire review here.
Review of Mother Teresa
by Steven D. Greydanus
Almost thirty years ago Olivia Hussey played the most venerated woman of all time, the Virgin Mary, in Zeffirelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth.” Now she portrays the most revered woman of the twentieth century in the reverential, Italian-made English-language production Mother Teresa..
Hussey’s earnest performance brings to life Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s determination, simplicity and idealistic faith, from her early growing absorption with the desperate condition of the poverty-stricken and dying in the streets of Calcutta through the difficulties that faced her efforts to establish a new congregation and its various projects, and beyond. . . .
Despite its limitations, Mother Teresa is pious, inspiring viewing, most worth seeing for Hussey’s effective portrayal of the beati’s dogged personality, idiosyncratic leadership and administrative style, and total self-abandonment to serving Jesus in the poorest of the poor.
Read the entire review here.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Cinema Catechism: A Study of the Faith through Film begins Thursday, September 9, 2010, with the showing of the feature film Mother Teresa, starring Olivia Hussey, together with a discussion of the theme of Love and Truth.
The 13th Day - about our Lady of Fatima and the messages she gave to the three children, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta.
The Scarlet and the Black - starring Gregory Peck as Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, an official with the Holy Office, who hid escaped Allied POWs and Jewish refugees in and around Rome during the Nazi occupation. With Christopher Plummer as the Nazi commander and John Gielgud as His Holiness Pope Pius XII, filmed in Rome and the Vatican.
Guadalupe - about a contemporary family from Spain learning about St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Having been called to religious life, the young lamb Agnes took the name "Mary Teresa," after St. Thérèse of Lisieux, upon joining the Sisters of Loreto. After learning English in Ireland, Sister Teresa was sent to India, which was then part of the British Empire, where she made her first profession of vows in May 1931. She then taught at St. Mary's School for Girls in Calcutta, becoming principal as well in 1944. Upon taking her final profession of vows in May 1937, Sister Teresa became a spouse of Jesus for all eternity and, from then on, she was called "Mother Teresa."
Mother Teresa of the Sisters of Loreto was a beloved teacher, but she was called to something else. She received a "calling within a calling."
On September 10, 1946, on a train ride to a retreat in Darjeeling, Mother Teresa received her "inspiration." The Lord, in His deep thirst for love, had called her to go out into the world to serve the poorest of the poor. She was initially denied permission to leave the convent since this was not part of the mission of the Sisters of Loreto. She was offered to be released from her vows, but Mother Teresa, being a spouse of Jesus for all eternity, of course declined.
However, on August 17, 1948, Mother Teresa did receive permission to enter the world of the poor. She then put on for the first time the familiar white and blue sari, and began to minister to the poor of Calcutta. In October 1950, she received permission to establish a new religious community, the Missionaries of Charity. Soon other women religious put on the white and blue sari, and Mother Teresa began to send her sisters to other parts of India and then to other countries.
In time, Mother Teresa and her sisters became known to the whole world for the love that they showed to the lowest of the low.
Upon her death in 1997, she was buried at the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, and her tomb immediately became a place of pilgrimage and prayer. On October 17, 2003, Mother Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, longing to love Jesus as He had never been loved before, you gave yourself entirely to Him, refusing Him nothing.
In union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, you accepted His call to satiate His infinite thirst for love and souls and become a carrier of His love to the poorest of the poor.
With loving trust and total surrender you fulfilled His will, witnessing to the joy of belonging totally to Him. You became so intimately united to Jesus your crucified Spouse that He deigned to share with you the agony of His Heart as He hung upon the Cross.
Blessed Teresa, you promised to continuously bring the light of love to those on earth; pray for us that we also may long to satiate the burning thirst of Jesus by loving Him ardently, sharing in His sufferings joyfully, and serving Him wholeheartedly in our brothers and sisters, especially those most unloved and unwanted.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Throughout history, the Church has utilized a variety of methods to fulfill this mission and teach the faith, such as preaching, personal instruction, written materials. Indeed, as we see in the Divine pedagogy of Salvation History, as set out in scripture, the Lord Himself has utilized a variety of teaching methods. Jesus seemed particularly to favor the parable. The Church too recognizes the need to use a variety of methods.
More specifically, from her earliest days, beyond preaching and formal catechesis, the Church has made use of art to instruct the faithful and spread the faith, including icons, sculptures, frescos and paintings, tapestries, stained glass windows, architecture, poems, and music. Looking up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the beautiful innocence depicted in the face of Adam at his creation teaches us something, as does the pained and anguished look on his face as he leaves the Garden after the Fall. To be sure, Michelangelo's home, the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy, has a formal Office of Catechesis through Art.
The 20th century saw the rise of film as an art form. Although the Church did caution against the danger of film being used for improper and immoral purposes, it saw that movies could also be used to advance the faith:
why should not these noble arts strive particularly to this end, that they spread the teaching of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ, "and instill into minds that Christian truth which alone can provide the strength from above to the mass of men, aided by which they may be able with calmness and courage, to overcome the crises and endure the severe trials of the age in which we now live?" (Pope Pius XII, Miranda Prorsus (1957)).Indeed, some of the earliest films were religious in nature, such as the original versions of Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments. And movies on faith saw something of a heyday in the 1950s and 60s.
While religion (and the Christian faith generally and Catholicism specifically) did kind of die out as a genre in Hollywood films after the 1960s, there was the occasional movie of faith. Recent years, however, have shown a resurgence of faith-related and faith-based films (mostly produced out of Europe), a prime example being The Passion of the Christ, which was not only an astounding success at the box office, it had a deep and profound impact on millions who saw it.
Cinema Catechism is a new venture in religious education which seeks to utilize film, which, as seen with The Passion, can be a form of sacred art, for purposes of catechesis. As Pope John Paul II noted,
I would like to recall here, for example, the numerous film presentations of the life and passion of Jesus and of the lives of the saints, still available in many film libraries, and which are useful, above all, to animate numerous cultural, recreational and catechetical activities undertaken by many dioceses, parishes and religious institutions. From those beginnings a rich body of religious cinema has been produced, with a large number of films that have had significant influence on many people. (Message for World Communications Day 1995)The movies selected for viewing in Cinema Catechism are of the big-production feature-film type, and ideally are films that people have not yet seen or had an opportunity to see. Film at its best can transcend the screen, and lead us think and ponder and reflect in ways that written or spoken words cannot. Combining the visual with the aural, together with the dramatic telling of a story, engages the learner on multiple levels. Most especially, in a fairly easy and effective way, film can stimulate a person's imagination and interest to then go on to read and learn more about the subject at hand. In viewing these films, our purpose is not mindless entertainment, but religious instruction and reflection in order to grow in the faith.
[T]he cinema is in reality a sort of object lesson which, for good or for evil, teaches the majority of men more effectively than abstract reasoning . . . good motion pictures are capable of exercising a profoundly moral influence upon those who see them. In addition to affording recreation, they are able to arouse noble ideals of life, to communicate valuable conceptions, to impart a better knowledge of the history and the beauties of the Fatherland and of other countries, to present truth and virtue under attractive forms, to create, or at least to favour understanding among nations, social classes, and races, to champion the cause of justice, to give new life to the claims of virtue, and to contribute positively to the genesis of a just social order in the world. (Pope Pius XI, Vigilanti Cura (1936))The particular inspiration for the idea of Cinema Catechism, combining substantive catechetical instruction and discussion with film, was Jean Delannoy's Bernadette (1988). Prior to watching that movie, back during the Cold War, I was much more interested in Fatima with its dramatic apocalyptic aspects than I was in Lourdes, which did not especially impress me. But I decided to watch the DVD of Bernadette just to learn a little bit about Lourdes and see what all the fuss was about. And it was from watching that film that I was motivated to go and learn more about St. Bernadette and the Lady in White at Massabielle, such that now I have developed quite an affection and devotion for Bernadette (and deepened my love of Mary). Indeed, she is one of the co-patrons I have adopted (together with St. Augustine) for any religious education class I teach.
This then is the intent of Cinema Catechism - an educational endeavor to learn something new, to get a little taste of a given subject in the faith, specifically in order to promote discussion and use the experience as a springboard to encourage one to reflect further and go learn more on his or her own. In this way, we not only grow in the faith ourselves, but in our learning, we better prepare ourselves to spread that faith to the world.
(See also, Inter Mirifica (Vatican II, 1963); Address of Pope Pius XII, The Ideal Film (1955); Pontifical Council for Social Communications, 100 Years of Cinema (1995))
Here is a list of some available faith-related films --
Acts (word-for-word dramatization)
The Agony and the Ecstasy
Saint Anthony: the Miracle Worker of Padua (Daniele Liotti)*
The Bells of St. Mary’s
Passion of Bernadette*
Beyond the Gates
Constantine and the Cross
Fiddler on the Roof
The Fourth Wise Man
Francis of Assisi (Bradford Dillman)
Saint Francis (Raoul Bova)*
The Gospel of John (word-for-word dramatization)
The Gospel of Matthew (word-for-word dramatization)
The Hiding Place
Jesus of Nazareth
The Jeweler’s Shop
Joseph of Nazareth
Karol: the Man who Became Pope
Karol: the Pope, the Man
Lilies of the Field
A Man for All Seasons
Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima
Molokai: the Story of Fr. Damien
Mother Teresa: the Legacy (documentary)
The Ninth Day*
Padre Pio: Miracle Man*
The Passion of the Christ*
St. Patrick – the Irish Legend
Paul VI: The Pope in the Tempest*
Pope John Paul II (Jon Voight)
Quo Vadis (Polish miniseries)*
The Scarlet and the Black
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days*
The Ten Commandments (1956)
The Ten Commandments (2006)
Thérèse: The Story of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (2004)
The 13th Day
A Time for Miracles (Elizabeth Ann Seton)
*foreign language film